For cultural organisations, particularly museums and galleries, ‘return’ in ROI does not just mean money. Neither is the ‘investment’ bit merely financial. What about all the time we put in? There is an argument that we need to measure ROI now more than ever. The economic squeeze of the last few years has led to a rash of academic studies into the ROI of entire industry sectors such as libraries and of organisational functions like marketing. If something doesn’t provide a return on expenditure, it is a cost and can be cut.
It is tempting to measure what can be most easily measured. Outputs are straightforward: the number of people involved in a project or the increase in the number of monthly visitors resulting from a website redesign, for example. But Ron Shevlin insists that we should not be measuring outputs: ‘ROI doesn’t come from having a Facebook page that’s liked by a million people. ROI comes from the sales and behavioural changes that are influenced
by a Facebook page that’s liked by a million people.’